Who are the Carmelite Saints?

There is no Saint Carmel. The lives of the Carmelite Saints are models of how to live one’s faith following the teachings of Jesus. Carmel is a place – a mountain in the Holy Land or wherever Carmelites live together.  Carmel is a way of life – as Pope Francis has said, “Carmel teaches the Church how to pray.”  Carmel is a destination, as Saint John of the Cross describes the spiritual path in his book “The Ascent of Mount Carmel.”

The Carmelites of the Most Pure Heart of Mary are a religious Order within the Catholic Church, who follow an 800-year-old tradition of spirituality. They follow the prophet Elijah to seek, live, and invite other to God’s presence and justice. They follow Mary to be open and help open others to God’s love. Carmelites follow Jesus  Christ by living the evangelical vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They work in more than 50 nations throughout the world including United States, Canada, Peru, Mexico, and El Salvador.

The Carmelite Rule

in 1206, Saint Albert of Jerusalem, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem at the time the first hermits banded together into a community on Mount Carmel, wrote a ‘Formula of Life’ that we now call ‘The Carmelite Rule.’

Click to view the full text of the Rule.

What does the Carmelite Rule say today?

Why is the Rule so loved by both the Carmelites and by the world?  Father Patrick McMahon, O.Carm., has insights and answers.

Meet a Carmelite

In this video Father Matthew Gummess, O.Carm., talks a bit about his life and journey.


Year Event
1206-14 St. Albert of Jerusalem gives a Rule of Life to the hermits on Mount Carmel.
1230s Carmelites begin returning to Europe.
1247 General Chapter in Aylesford, England.  Pope Innocent IV mitigates the Carmelite Rule, as the Order adapts to its European reality, now a community of friars.
1251 Traditional date of St. Simon Stock’s Scapular Vision of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Aylesford, England on July 16.
1291 Muslim forces extinguish Carmelite community on Mount Carmel.
1300 Carmelite Order now has 150 houses in Cyprus, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, England, Scotland & Ireland, and are present in universities in Paris, London, Cologne, Florence, & Bologna.
1348-51 Black Death extinguishes 30-50% of European population, devastating the Carmelite Order.
1452 Under Prior General Blessed John Soreth, Pope Nicholas V’s Papal Bull, Cum nulla, establishes Carmelite nuns and Lay Carmelites.
1517 Martin Luther initiates Protestant Reformation.  Carmelites diminished throughout Northern Europe.
1515-1582 St. Teresa of Avila inspires Discalced Reform of Carmelite nuns.
1542-1591 St. John of the Cross inspires Discalced Reform of Carmelite friars.
1611 Reform of Touraine brings stricter observance to Carmel.
1789 French Revolution & its aftermath destroys Religious Life in most of Europe.
1790 Discalced American & English Carmelite nuns found first American cloister in Port Tobacco, Maryland.
1864 Two German Carmelites from Straubing, Bavaria establish first American foundation in Leavenworth, Kansas.
1873-1897 Life of St. Therese of Lisieux inspires future Carmelites.
1875 Carmelites come to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
1890 American Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary (“Purisima Cordis Maria”–PCM), established.
1942 Carmelites, St. Edith Stein & Blessed Titus Brandsma, martyred by Nazis.
1949 PCM Carmelites establish presence in Peru.
1995 PCM Carmelites establish presence in Mexico.
2007 PCM Carmelites establish presence in El Salvador.
2022 PCM Carmelites establish presence in Honduras.


What is the Carmelite family? 

A group of hermits gathered together in the early 1200s on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land to search for God, to form community, and to help pilgrims and crusaders.  From these simple beginnings the Carmelite Order has spread throughout the world and has grown many branches.  We call all these branches ‘the Carmelite family.’

The Friars

When Europeans lost control of the Holy Land, those first hermits left Mount Carmel for Europe.  There they soon adapted their Rule to the new Mendicant (itinerant preachers) Movement and became friars (brothers) like the newly-founded Franciscan friars, Dominican friars, and Augustinian friars.  All the members of the male branch of the Carmelite Order are friars and they are active in many public ministries. Please note that both the ordained men (priests) and the non-ordained men are called friars.

The Nuns

In the mid-1400s, Blessed John Soreth, Prior General of the Order, opened the Order to women.  Some of these women gathered into cloistered (enclosed) communities focused on prayer.  These enclosed communities are called monasteries or ‘Carmels’ and these cloistered women are called ‘nuns.’

For more information about the nuns contact us.

The Sisters

At the same time some of these women gathered into active communities with public ministries like teaching, healthcare, and working with the poor.  These active women professed the same vows but are called ‘sisters’ rather than ‘nuns.’

For more information about the sisters, visit http://www.carmelitesisters.com

Lay Carmelites

Simultaneously lay members of the Church, whether single or married, began to follow the Carmelite pattern of prayer and ministry in their daily lives while living in their own homes.  This branch of the Order is called the ‘Lay Carmelites.’

For more information about the Lay Carmelites, visit http://laycarmelitespcm.org